Previous stories about the exhibition: AUTO. SUEÑO Y MATERIA - Cars and landscapes and AUTO. SUEÑO Y MATERIA - Artificial traffic jam in the mountains.

At the beginning of the 20th century, cars were hand built by small teams of highly skilled craftsmen and women. Only an elite could afford to buy one until Henry Ford developed a system of mass-producing cars on conveyor belt-based 'assembly lines' and introduced standardized interchangeable parts. The mass production lowered the unit price of cars, making them affordable for the average consumer.

Tobias Rehberger takes history backwards. In 1999, the artist embarked on a project that saw him sending simple sketches, composed essentially from memory, of iconic cars such as a Porsche 911 and a McLaren F1 to a workshop in Thailand.

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Tobias Rehberger, Tod Man Plaa, 2004 (photo Enrique G. Cardenas)

The artist who grew up near Stuttgart -often nicknamed the cradle of the automobile- selected Thailand, the Detroit of Asia, because the country is also known for its knockoffs of pretty much anything 'the West' produces.

The instructions, sketches, clippings from newspapers and renderings he sent in Thailand didn't contained any measurements nor technological details. The only requirements were that the cars had to be drivable and built to human scale. No matter how carefully the Thai craftsmen worked, the resulting vehicles can only reflect the meagre instructions the artist sent them. But Rehberger likes the imperfections because the way they enhance the personal stories behind his work. For the Renault Alpines (the model currently on show at Laboral), he just gave the men the info over the phone.

Rehberger claimed that he wanted "to create a car that is in itself a sculpture." The series makes us re-consider our idea of authenticity. It also softens the line that separates a consumer good from an artwork.

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Stéphane Couturier, Série "Melting Point" - Usine Toyota n°9 - Valenciennes, 2007

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Stéphane Couturier, Série "Melting Point" - Usine Toyota n°1 - Valenciennes, 2005

Stéphane Couturier's series Melting Point superposes two photographs taken in an automobile assembly plant in Valenciennes to create an almost abstract image. However, workers, machines, car parts, belts and surroundings can still be clearly identified. The series examine the connection between the introduction of new technological tools and the inevitable emergence of changes in our vision and perception of reality.

Auto. Sueño y Materia, curated by Alberto Martín, runs until September 21 at Laboral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial.

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Panos Kokkinias, Gas Station, 2003

AUTO. SUEÑO Y MATERIA [AUTO. DREAM AND MATERIAL], the new exhibition at Laboral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial analyzes contemporary car culture through the lens of some 100 artworks.

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Lovely interior architecture by longo + roldán arquitectos

What an interesting moment to organize an exhibition on cars. Reading online newspaper over the past few months, i had the feeling that an era is closing. Buying a new car is suddenly not as desirable as it used to be: consumers have a new or stronger eco-conscience but most of all, they've been hit by the financial crisis. Sales of vehicles are hitting rock bottom. Governments are discussing or unveiling rescue packages. Jobs in the car industry are threatened. Car companies from all over the world are forced to resort to creative marketing strategies to seduce consumers: major manufacturers are offering hefty discounts while Hyundai is allowing customers to return their new cars if they lose their jobs.

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Frank Breuer, Untitled (624 Köln), 1996

Cars have shaped the 20th century probably more than any other product of technology. Ever since Carl Benz created the first "horseless carriage" (1885), the automobile has had a deep impact on almost every single aspect of our life: landscapes, architecture, geo-political relationships (necessity to gain control of the areas that produce its fuel), social and labour movements, even the air we breathe. Cars are also objects of desire, ambitions and dreams. They symbolize independence, power, they've starred in movies and their commercials feature the sexiest women around.

Referring in particular to the Citroën DS (the only car that has ever managed to get my attention), Roland Barthes famously said: "I think that cars today are almost the exact equivalent of the great Gothic cathedrals: I mean the supreme creation of an era, conceived with passion by unknown artists, and consumed in image if not in usage by a whole population which appropriates them as a purely magical object."

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Sven Pählsson, Sprawlville or Life at the Highway Exit Ramp, 2002

AUTO. SUEÑO Y MATERIA keeps a balance between the dark sides and the most attractive aspects of car culture: mobility, speed, power, sex, damages to the environment, alteration of the landscape, energy waste, traffic, etc. Most of the pieces on show embraces several themes at a time. I found the exhibition fascinating and timely but a bit encyclopedic. I'll try and give you a tour in a couple of posts. This one is going to focus on the imprint that car culture has left on rural and urban landscapes: fast highways of course but also rural roads built on purpose for tourists to leisurely enjoy picturesque landscapes, sidewalks for the un-motorized, signage to control traffic, architecture that had to be adapted or created from scratch in order to enable driver to refuel their car, simply park it or lure them into spending the night by the road, etc.

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Koen Wastijn, Traffic of Traffic, 2008

Koen Wastijn is a sculpture made of neon tubes bent and twisted in the shape of Brussel's highway interchange which, for the artist, is "the most beautiful Belgian sculpture."

The luminous characteristics of the sculpture remind Belgians (like me) of that tale our parents like to repeat us over and over again: Belgian highways are so brightly lit that they can be seen from space. The sculpture evokes also the number of time we've been stuck in jam right into that knot. The car, this icon of speed and movement becomes a box in which we curse and pray till the traffic finally resumes its fluid course.

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Eric Aupol's photos of a glass recycling center in Picardie, reminiscent of Edward Burtynsky's Oxford Tire Pile (also present in the exhibition), portray waste a an inevitable but also highly aesthetic corollary of industry and consumerism. Its accumulation designs "new" landscapes. Piled up broken bits of glass are paralleled with geological formations.

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Alain Bublex, Achetez de l'acier, 2006

Alain Bublex tackles this idea of new landscape with the photo Achetez de l'acier (Buy Steel) is a photograph shot with what looks like a Düsseldorf-style detachment. A battered American car from the 1970s is parked in front of a wooden house on a side street in some small industrial
town, the weather is glum. On its side, the car bears the inscription: "help to preserve one of the world's most beautiful landscapes."

The artist explained that his photo highlights the "false paradox" between the issue of preserving the landscape (which is usually restricted to nature) and that of the disappearance of industrial landscapes. Buy Steel and we'll have smoking factories and dramatic landscapes! This solution is in opposition with the one of our time, which tries to convert old factories into cultural centres.

Moreover, the shooting distance from the subject and the lighting patterns reinforces, even more than the sense of our voyeuristic witnessing of a story, the certainty that we are brought in contact with the projection of a mystical dynamic. In this way Kokkinias manages to transform the familiar into an unexplored, remote place, at the same time turning his stories into fantasies which may become true at any moment.

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Thomas Struth, El Capitan, Yosemite National Park, 1999

El Capitan, an imposing rocky granite mountain located in Yosemite National Park, has been photographed time and time again by hordes of tourists and masters of photography. Thomas Struth portrayed the rock formation from the road, the place that, as we see in the photograph, is also the place where many visitors stop their car and look at the mountain. Unlike most photographers, Struth chooses not to obliterate the road and the cars. They might not seem to belong to the pristine beauty of nature but they enabled tourists to get a fast and easy access to it.

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Exhibition view (photo Enrique G. Cardenas)

More soon...

The exhibition is on view until September 21, 2009 at Laboral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial in Gijon, Spain.

I've stopped counting the number of emails i received about my latest flickr set titled AUTO. SUEÑO Y MATERIA [AUTO. DREAM AND MATERIAL] . Yes, my friends, it's an exhibition about cars. It's quite spectacular, it's overwhelming and you can visit it until September 21 at Laboral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial in Gijón, Spain. Over works 100 explore, each in their own way, the relationship between car culture and art creation in recent decades. 100 works that's a lot to write about so i'll start slowly with a first piece i saw at LABoral. A more detailed report will come soon(ish).

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Maider López, Ataskoa desde baserri, 2005

In 2005, Maider López bought advertising space in the press, he had leaflets distributed and posters glued on walls. His objective was to invite car drivers to come and create an artificial traffic jam on the slopes of the Aralar mountains in the North of Spain. On the 18th of September 2005, 160 cars (with approximately 425 people) joined the jam from 11am. until 3pm. The artist's team directed the traffic and documented the event.

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Maider López, Ataskoa Aralar, 2005

The photographs document an absurd confrontation between the urban and the rural, an extravagant Waiting for Godot, which today resonates with an added layer of ecological threat.

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Maider López, Ataskoa aérea, 2005

All images courtesy Laboral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial.

Crisálidas (Chrysalises), an installation on view until April 6 at LABoral in Gijon (Spain), is a luminous collage of moving images processed from mass media, re-interpreted into an intuitive and sketchy drawing on acetate, and furthermore regenerated through layering and chance encounters with other drawings.

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Photo Marcos Morilla

This process results in the chance emergence of hybrids and in strange random combinations of the drawings. These collages are the starting point for the enfolding mural art installations and the animation videos that complete the piece by Fernando Gutiérrez, generating subjective atmospheres as invitations to the world that approaches the unconscious from an iconographic perspective. Crisálidas is a piece that innovates the traditional technique of drawing from within, while redefining it and positioning it in the present by the use of new techniques and supports.

The project, developed by Fernando Gutiérrez, is the winning piece in the second edition of the LABjoven_Experimenta Award (the previous award went to Situation Room by Pablo de Soto from hackitectura.net), an annual award open to young artists born or residing in the Principality of Asturias. Its purpose is to facilitate the development of experimental art projects conceived specifically for their exhibition in Sala Plataforma at LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial.

I asked Fernando Gutiérrez to give us more details about his artworks (if you scroll down you can read the original answers in spanish):

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Photo Marcos Morilla

Crisálidas uses images extracted from the mass-media. Is there any political or ethical reason behind this choice?

Crisálidas is part of a body of work based on the metamorphoses that small things submit us to. Such as going on a trip and coming back with the accent of the place we've just visited. We constantly reconfigure ourselves because of our empathic nervous system. Similarly, the drawings of Crisálidas contaminate each other in a process made of articulated collages, in which everyday images that we see in the media intervene. The selection of images is subjective and capricious, forming a visual diary of a reality that has been filtered to the point of intimacy.

There doesn't seem to be, at least not in a conscious form, a political or ethical motivation behind Crisálidas. There's no prejudice. When i draw in a fast and careless way, images remain stripped, only their basic structure remains. It is difficult to determine its origin, its starting point. We might sometimes find an element that vaguely evoke its source, maybe we in a subliminal way we are reminded of its shadow. The idea that we can build parallel worlds on the basis of light evocations interests me.

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Photo Marcos Morilla

You invited El Hijo to accompany your work musically during the opening of Crisálidas at Laboral. The concert, i read, was designed as a soundtrack and musical backdrop for your installation. Can you explain us how it went? And why did you chose El Hijo?

More generally, has music any influence on your work?

The work has been conceived without audio, i wanted the stimuli to be purely visual. On the other hand, we wanted to create something special for the inauguration and we invited El Hijo to create a sound environment.

El Hijo's imagery deploys itself between the dream and the experience of life, reflections of the world reverberated in a poetry that caresses the metaphors of the work. Crisálidas identifies itself with his music and words: "emotional music that insinuates itself inside memory like water gets into the ears...", i would like my drawings to be interpreted that way.

Music has a lot of influence on me, it is always present when i generate ideas, create associations... it's a permanent stimulation. However, there's been occasions when i have incorporated music into my work. That's something i've been thinking about more lately, i like the idea of working with musicians.

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Image courtesy LABoral

Crisálidas seems to be a seducing mix of drawing and new technologies. Had you experimented with new technologies before? What did the technological aspect bring to your work? Is the technological element, something you would want to keep on working on in the future?

There is a very suggestive relationship between drawing and new technologies that i would like to keep on exploring. In my work i modify spaces through graphic interventions that organize emotional, sensitive and sometimes playful atmospheres. In parallel to the interventions i started experimenting with small animations and i found myself incredibly fascinated by the fact that images can take on a life of their own. In that occasion the two media could be integrated in the same space, different graphic skins through light and video.

In Crisálidas the use of a digital and multi-function robot-projector DL1 enabled me to face a space of multiple projections, i could control the laps of time between animations and the movements of the beam on various spots in the room. All those features would be inconceivable with a standard projector. On the other hand, something as simple as changing the light in the room and the use of photoluminescent painting for some of the drawings enabled to get light in the dark, purely from the graphic impulse. I'll try and make a subtle use of these features, adding up technology here and there and in a very simple way. Not as a spectacle nor for the sake of it.

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Image courtesy LABoral

How did LABjoven_Experimenta help you developed your project? Which kind of support did you receive from LABoral?

LABjoven_Experimenta offers the possibility to develop a site specific work with a professional production budget. It's a privilege to be able to work in these conditions...

The work has been supported by LABoral's impeccable follow-up. The working team engaged themselves in the project right from the start, offering an intelligent support, helping its development and solving at every step the technical doubts we encountered.

José Luís Macías and David Almazo were in charge of software programming for the projector DL1, they dedicated themselves emotionally in Crisálidas and they have broadened the perspective of the art piece. The experience has been very enriching.

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A previous work by Fernando Gutiérrez: Graphic intervention, Cimadevilla Gijón, 2008. Image courtesy of the artist

Spanish version of the interview....

Crisálidas uses images extracted from the mass-media. Is there any political or ethical reason behind this choice?

Crisálidas gira en torno a un flujo de trabajo a partir de las metamorfosis que nos producen las pequeñas cosas, como salir de viaje y volver con el acento del lugar que has visitad. Nos reconfiguramos continuamente desde un sistema nervioso empático. De la misma forma, los dibujos de crisálidas se contaminan unos a otros en un proceso de collage articulado, en el que se intervienen imágenes cotidianas que vemos todos los días en los medios. La selección de imágenes es subjetiva y caprichosa, conformando un diario visual de realidad exudada desde la intimidad.

No parece existir, de una forma consciente, una razón política o ética detrás de Crisálidas. No se hacen juicios de valor. Cuando dibujo de forma rápida y despreocupada las imágenes quedan desnudas, tan sólo permanece su estructura básica. Es difícil saber cual es su procedencia original, el punto de partida. En alguna ocasión algo nos puede recordar vagamente a su referente, tal vez de forma subliminal recordemos una sombra. Esta idea me parece interesante, la construcción de mundos paralelos a partir de leves evocaciones.

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Photo Marcos Morilla

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Photo Marcos Morilla

You invited El Hijo to accompany your work musically during the opening of Crisálidas at Laboral. The concert, i read, was designed as a soundtrack and musical backdrop for your installation. Can you explain us how it went? And why did you chose El Hijo?

More generally, has music any influence on your work?

La pieza está concebida sin audio, quería que los estímulos fuesen únicamente visuales, pero queríamos hacer algo especial para el día de la inauguración e invitamos a El Hijo a realizar una ambientación sonora.

El imaginario de El Hijo se desenvuelve entre el sueño y la experiencia vital, reflejos reverberados del mundo en una poesía que acaricia las metamorfosis de la pieza. Crisálidas se identifica con su música y sus letras: "música emocional que se aloja en la memoria como el agua en los oídos...", me gustaría que mis dibujos se interpretasen así.

La música tiene mucha influencia sobre mi, está presente de forma continua a la hora de generar ideas, crear asociaciones... es un estímulo permanente, sin embargo en contadas ocasiones la he incorporado a mi trabajo. Algo que estoy reconsiderando, me seduce mucho la idea de trabajar con músicos...

Crisálidas seems to be a seducing mix of drawing and new technologies. Had you experimented with new technologies before? What did the technological aspect bring to your work? Is the technological element, something you would want to keep on working on in the future?

Existe una relación muy sugestiva entre el dibujo y las nueva tecnologías que me gustaría seguir explorando. En mi trabajo altero espacios a través de intervenciones gráficas que organizan atmósferas emocionales, sensitivas y ocasionalmente lúdicas. Paralelamente a las intervenciones empecé a experimentar con pequeñas animaciones y me producía una fascinación tremenda el hecho de que las imágenes cobrasen vida. En esta ocasión podía integrar los dos medios en el mismo espacio, distintas pieles gráficas a través de la luz y el vídeo.

En crisálidas la utilización de un robot-proyector digital multifunción DL1 me permitía afrontar un espacio múltiple de proyección, pudiendo controlar los períodos de tiempo en las animaciones y el movimiento del foco en distintos puntos de la sala, cosas que serían impensables con un proyector estándar. Por otra parte, algo tan sencillo como un cambio de iluminación en la sala y el uso de pintura fotoluminiscente en algunos de los dibujos, permitía luz en la oscuridad desde el propio impulso gráfico. Traté de hacer una utilización sutil de estas prestaciones, sumando la tecnología puntualmente y de una forma sencilla, no como espectáculo ni un fin en sí misma.

How did LABjoven_Experimenta help you developed your project? Which kind of support did you receive from LABoral?

LABjoven_Experimenta ofrece la posibilidad de desarrollar una obra site specific contando con un presupuesto de producción profesional. Es un privilegio poder trabajar así...

El proyecto estuvo respaldado con un seguimiento impecable por parte de LABoral. El equipo de trabajo se involucró desde el principio en el proyecto, ofreciendo un apoyo inteligente, facilitando su desarrollo y resolviendo en todo momento las dudas técnicas y de montaje que se produjeron.

José Luís Macías y David Almazo se ocuparon de la programación del software para el proyector DL1, implicándose emocionalmente en Crisálidas y ampliando la perspectiva de la pieza. La experiencia ha sido muy enriquecedora.

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Graphic intervention, Cimadevilla Gijón, 2008. Image courtesy of the artist

Just a quick video that will hopefully inspire you merry ways to end 2008:

Daniel Eatock spent two months in 2007 living and working in Vilnius (Lithuania). He noticed that car alarms were constantly interrupting the peace. The alarms were so sensitive that even a whisper would set them off. One day, out of sheer frustration, Eatock left his desk, found the car whose alarm had been interrupting his peace every five minutes, and waited patiently for the siren to switch on. When the siren sounded, he started dancing like a madman. He made videos of several of his car alarm dances, never touching the car, only dancing to the sound pollutants.

Seen at Nowhere, Now / Here, an exhibition that revisits the definition and perception of design.

Nowhere/Now/Here runs until Mon, April 20 , 2009 at LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial in Gijon, Spain.

Alan Dunning, Morley Hollenberg and Paul Woodrow are working since 1996 on the Einstein's Brain, a project that explores how the brain can act as an interface between bodies and worlds in flux, that examines the idea of the world as a construct sustained through neurological processes. In collaboration with scientists, artists and technologists from around the world the team is investigating ideas about consciousness and embodiment through the realization of virtual environments and the construction of surrogate bodies.

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The Canadian collective has a very uncanny and captivating installation on view until mid-January at LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial. in Gijón (Spain.)

Ghosts in the Machine, uses the ideas inherent in Electronic Voice Phenomenon (EVP) to examine ways in which we construct the world and extends it to the visual. EVP is the recording of errant noises or voices that have no explainable or physical source of origin. For some, the voices are subjective interpretations (similar to some form of anthropomorphisation) of what are actually random patterns of sound. For others, the voices are genuinely mysterious, opening up for example the possibility to communicate with other realms.

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The installation Ghosts in the Machine looks simple: two large images are projected onto the walls of a room. One projection shows video static overlaid with text and the outlines of bounding boxes, the other shows b&w images of what appear to be blurry and ghost-like images of human faces. Ambient noise fills the space. Just at the threshold of recognition can be heard what appear to be human speech in different languages. A box, encloses tightly a CCD camera, only letting through the video noise inherent in the system. Audio patterns are scanned by a voice recognition system that looks for words and sentences which are then projected as words and played as voice-like sounds in the exhibition room.

Face tracking algorithms look for any combination of pixels that form the basic characteristics of a human face. When the software finds a combination of pixels akin to eyes, nose and mouth with a sufficient degree of symmetry, it draws a bounding box defining the area and zooms the area to full screen, its contrast and brightness is adjusted, blurred and desaturated to clarify the found images. More often than not the images produced fail to resolve themselves into anything recognizable. But occasionally, images are produced that are strikingly like a face although in actuality containing only the barest possibility of being so.

As the authors of the project explain: It is the very ambiguity and intedeterminacy of the images that allows the brain to reconfigure them as indexical. This work is one of several that examine systems of meaning making that rely on pattern recognition, and the problematized relationship between meaning and the meaningful.

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The project examines how we construct worlds, and bodies in worlds, through pareidolia, (when a vague and random stimulus is perceived as significant), apophenia (the seeing of connections where there are none) and the gestalt effect (the recognition of pattern and form).

All images courtesy LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial.

Ghosts in the Machine, produced by LABoral's Projects Office, is on view at LABoral, in Gijón (Spain) through January 12 , 2009.

More ghosts this way ladies and gentlemen: Man Machine 2, The Museum of Jurassic Technology, Haunted pixels, (don't) Show me the Chip, Ghost by Olaf Breuning, and a vacuum cleaner to capture goblins.

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